tv A CIA Officer in Afghanistan After 911 CSPAN October 8, 2017 11:15am-12:21pm EDT
pension plan. so, we are responsible and conservative, that we are also not afraid to the pragmatic and aggressive. you will have governors like your nordic -- like peter or bill or even our current governor in some cases, who will step outside of the ideological lens to get things done. that is what voters in the state want. >> this weekend, we are featuring the history of south dakota. you can learn more about the city and other cities on our city tour on c-span.com/citiestour. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3.
>> former c.i.a. officer dwayne evans talks about his book foxtrot in kandahar. the international spy museum hosted this event it is just over one hour. >> let me introduce you to our guest today. he is a author that is a expansion of our podcast series. we tend to do these conversations and private a couple of feet from. every quarter we choose one that stands out and we do it as a public viewing. that is for the community and you can get a chance to hear the author talk directly to you. we are excited especially to
talk with duane evans. he is a former cia officer serving as a chief of station which is many of you know is a senior field position. it is a recipient of the intelligence star of valor. prior to joining the agency he was in the special forces and military intelligence officers. he is a graduate of mexico state university. he is the author of a novel, one from calcutta and foxtrot in kandahar. welcome, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. so when anyone writes a memoir, especially someone who is a former practitioner, the question is why? this is not just a memoir of your life. it is not when you are born, it is a memoir or a particular time in history. it is a snapshot of this time. why focus specifically on this time and not a book about your life in childhood?
duane: the reason you stated that it is a special time and it was a very special time when it was emotional with this catalyst for my time in afghanistan was before the 9/11 attack. today is the anniversary, it was such a powerful experience for me. i knew i wanted to write about it if only for myself. in years past i knew i had written a initial line for my own remembrance. the years passed and we continue to be involved in afghanistan. i realize how important that story was to me. i get to see it from a human interest and point and it may be interesting to people at the historical account of the time. with the whole involvement, the cia and afghanistan with that initial time very unique. it was under extraordinary circumstances. i thought i could write something that focuses exclusively on that they did not go into those things you mentioned.
>> we have a lot of people who come on the podcast for the museum and many of them have nightmare stories about a publication or award. you actually talk about operations and the methods and circumstances. you had very little trouble doing this. and you talk about how that all happened, is there something we might want to know with your experience? also was a purposeful when you are writing. duane: definitely it was purposeful because i did not want to run into a lot of problems. i got a good sense of what the publications review board is
looking for in terms of what they would censor out. looking for classified information. particularly regarding the protection of sources. i wrote the book and a way that protected those sources and methods. the nature of the method of what we were doing in afghanistan is that your classic espionage operations. the book is not about writing with intelligence reporting. all of that was going on. i did not focus on that because that was not the main team of the book. it was not the main thing that we were doing. because it was a paramilitary operation for the most part and a lot of it became public anyway this was now 16 years after the fact there have been things written dealt with this that
have been written about afghanistan from the north. the things that had been approved doing in the north usually with the policy if it has been approved or something similar has been approved that if you write about it they may initially sate you cannot do it. if you can point to another book and it was fine they will reconsider and allow you to publish. quest we brought up 9/11 and how it is the anniversary of it. there are very few young people -- just about everybody here probably remembers where they were during 9/11. how you and others seemed to be running the wall for the american public? >> it is very interesting. i was only a few blocks from
here. i was at the fbi headquarters. it is a gentleman in the audience who is a dear friend of mine who happen to be with me. i did not know he was going to be here. he has showed up. i will call him frank. he was a fbi special agent. i was on leave at the time. i had just come back from overseas. i was on a extended leave. i was looking at a long leave and i was not supposed to go to work until october. i was going to be a cia liaison officer. rent was working with me and brought a foreign delegation to visit the fbi and to take them to the cia headquarters as well for a briefing on international terrorism. he invited me to join me at the afghani headquarters to join this group. some of whom i knew.
and get a two are of the building. i thought since i was good to be a liaison officer it would be a great opportunity. frank and i go with you a lot together ran ct operations, we had other dramatic expenses that we went through. he met me outside and we got a cappuccino. injuring the day. we were just waiting for the delegation. we went up to the fbi headquarters and their operations center. we got there around 9:00 a.m. we cannot find the person we were supposed to meet. soon we were asked to escort them out of the operations center.
there had been a incident in new york or a plane hit a building. we assumed it was a small plane and went downstairs. we went to the cafeteria and we did not know what to do. that is what we saw the news report for the first time. we saw what was really going on. this is something major. much bigger than what any of us had a magic. it was quite a shock. i knew at that moment when the second plane hit the building i knew that it was al qaeda. i instantly knew that there was no question in my mind who had done it. i knew that we would be going to war. i knew i had to be part of that. >> you have been focus on counterterrorism for years. you were there during a weird time one month before the african bombing of 1998 you are
at one of the embassies talking about how bad the security was. duane: that is correct, i happened to be there by chance in nairobi. i was talking to a officer there about their poor security. there or physical security of the embassy. we were standing in the exact spot where a truck bomb was going to detonate and killed five people. i was overseas at the time when that attack happened. i was back at my station. i went out to visit africa and i saw that newspaper that morning. i saw the graph of where the bomb had gone off. i knew right where the place
was. it was where i and the officer stood. >> the embassy officer understood the security issue. duane: absolutely. it was not a surprise to them. they had requested the ambassador to move locations. i have been going on for quite some time. the officer told me at that moment we know it is notable. they are not going to do anything because the ambassador has not seen any changes. >> you mentioned watching the tv coverage of 9/11 you knew we were at war. most people understand that the cia ramped up immediately which would be the global war on terrorism. whatever word you want to use. everyone attempted to warm up as fast as we could. there were bureaucracies getting in the way. one of the biggest issues is that the near east division focusing on that area of the world had potential responsibility for afghanistan. at the same time with the counterterrorism operation.
there was the cia. it is some of these rivalries go out and cause problems? it became a problem for me immediately. i was caught between the two. i was in the nsa division is my home base. then i was on location in the counterterrorism center. so when 9/11 happened as soon as the traffic cleared out i went to headquarters. i said i am coming off of leave and i am here. i want to help.
they did not know who was in charge. this was kind of being debated. which has the mission of counterterrorism. those decisions were made at a very high level. they were made relatively quickly. initially no one knew who was going to take the lead on the cia response to 9/11. it took a while to play out. ultimately it would play a very important supporting role. quickly could not find information. grexit cannot find your file. >> the new office for the counterterrorism sector was wanted volunteers of course. they wanted to make sure they had the people they wanted. only a handful of people formed up and they said they have to that you.
and they could not find my file. they did not have it so they could not read my file. i knew the person who is going to be the chief of special operations and when he came back he said we can take him. >> let's talk about afghanistan, that is the focus here. the cia did not just figure out afghanistan was there. they knew about it back in the 1980's. even then there was planning happening in afghanistan. there was a liaison in place. there were constant attempts to keep in contact. rep. fortenberry: 11, this is something many people do not know the history of.
the top person of the alliance that we would have immediately reached out to work with was assassinated. >> he was the leader of the northern alliance. three or four days later he was assassinated by a couple of people posing as journalists. they had been waiting for days to see him. finally at the last minute he said i will see them. they killed him. the problem that it immediately presented was he was very charismatic of the northern alliance. when he was killed this was the day before 9/11.
that 9/11 happened. we had this liaison going that we could turn to their leader had just been assassinated. i don't know if it has ever been proven or know that that assassination was done as part of the whole plot for 9/11. in anticipated we know what we did. i don't know, i can't speak to that. >> the timing is so coincidental. it is extraordinary. it would have to be a first shot of 9/11 for that. back to bureaucracy. it is kind of current here. we want to go and do something about it. with a special operations the problem that you lay out is one that all of us who have that expense for ourselves is. no one in other units once to give up their best people to you what to go fight the war on terrorism. as leadership to the cia why
would you give this up with your top operators? >> i say in my book i call that a failure of leadership. we had so many senior officers who basically wanted to continue as if nothing had happened with management personnel. when the request were made to join our sco. we had to fight to get those officers. whether they were division chiefs and they did not want to give them up. they did not recognize my view that the world had changed with 9/11. this was not going to be the standard thing the cia did for a while. things are going to change here. we needed people who had previous military skill. frankly there were not that many that have those commendations of talents. we really needed them. we often run into problems with
their chiefs or the station chiefs not wanting to give them up. >> it you perceive it as a believe that this counterterrorism thing was a blip in the mission and it would go back to being normal. was that your perception of the leadership? >> i knew this was major and a game changer. >> that you perceive that they were thinking that way? and that is what they were unwilling? >> they had made comments to that fact. it was going to change and things will go back to normal. we will have our regular mission and i heard that kind of talk. that kind of philosophy was there. i found it very disappointing. i do want to give the wrong impression. there were enough people who felt that way that did not let a difficult. ultimately i think we got what we wanted because he said he would support with the mission
was. he would weigh-in and get the people of eventually. >> you mentioned the lookout was cia officers who had military background. you fit that role. it had been a while. did you have to retrain yourself very quickly with the stuff you have learned in the past? you had been in a commercial. there is a great story of you that you can tell or not. when you hit the ground you are working with people who were in special operations people had more recent military experience.
>> how high was that learning curve to come back and relearn some of those skills that you had before. >> i do not have time to relearn anything. i was probably already qualified for my previous service. that was not a big issue. what i was really in the dark more was for the communications equipment. basically we had a couple of special operators that were given as part of the team. i'd did have time to relearn all that. i had to rely on people with those skills. the advantage for me was i understood the environment and being out in the field and that kind of living. that is the kind of thing we are having to contend with. it had been a while but i felt pretty much at home.
>> sorry to interrupt you but i think it is its ordinary. most people who get deployed think they are on the moon because it is such a foreign environment for so many people who grew up in the united states. a lot of people thought they were going to the desert which is only a small portion of afghanistan. you said it was like being at home that can new mexico going fishing and hunting. >> it was, i really felt so comfortable because of the natural environment. it is so familiar to me in terms of what i saw and what i felt. when i was a kid all i did was hunt. it was very natural. i did not feel like i was in a alien environment. i had to remind myself this was a war zone. >> let me ask you about your
arrival there. you did not go directly to afghanistan you went to pakistan first. this shows another level of bureaucratic tension within the cia. up until 9/11 at the you guys showed up with the operations there afghanistan have been controlled by the station in pakistan. they did not quite realize that the world had changed as dramatically as it had. talk a little bit about that tension. >> i think they understood the significance of what had happened. i think what changed and maybe they had not realized that organizationally when they were formed up. then there role became different.
previously and afghanistan we had to have a station. it was all about being closest. they were a station in exile. i don't say you can use the term control. they have been responsible for leading the cia operations in afghanistan up until 9/11. they were given the mission of running and managing the cia response to 9/11 inside afghanistan. that was from the cia standpoint. >> i think they saw themselves as the premier leader in that regard. they don't want to underestimate what the role was.
it is a huge important role. they were not in charge any longer. there was friction. even before i got out of pakistan there were plenty of communications between where there was a lot of friction. different ideas of how we should proceed to the war. pakistan there were plenty of communications between where when i went out there with a colleague of mine we were pretty much seen as the enemy by certain members of the station. grexit central figure in afghanistan was a controversial figure because his rise to power was seen as a huge win against the taliban. his actual raid was seen as less successful. you knew him pretty well. with a lot of other people.
you ended up being a knock on the wall for him. can you describe a little bit about who he was as a man? you did not describe him in the book without positive especially since a lot of the negative be has been there. >> i got to know him and there was a brief time i was with them. i was right in the room next door. i got to spend a lot of time with him during that timeframe. there were other agency officers they got to know him much better than i did. at that point in time i did get to know him and i saw him later on. i know about the negative things that have come out since. in my book i wrote retrospectively i did not want to have that impact of how i
felt about him. i wanted to portray him as i knew him then. i was extremely impressed by the man. i knew i was in the presence of a this oracle figure. he was strongly focused on bringing afghanistan and the taliban -- just a gentleman. i can't imagine him being corrupt. he was extremely rife. he had gone into afghanistan by himself. before this rebellion started with the taliban. i have nothing but respect for him at the time.
i genuinely liked him. i don't know anyone who didn't. over time the president and afghanistan -- there have been different things that have been set about him. i was not working with them. i have to say though he had a tough road. he was trying to balance all of this conflicting interest in afghanistan. with the leader of his own country. sometimes when he would make a decision that we as americans would not like i think we were failing to realize he is in charge of his own country. he is trying to act in the best interest. he is trying to balance all of this. i can't imagine how he could get the job. >> he went in with a team that you are supposed to be on. you got bumped at the last minute. early at the last minute because of space. history happens because of a helicopter cannot hold enough people. at that point you end up meeting people that would become the title of the book. you instead are matched up with another afghan who gets a nickname.
let's talk a little bit about him. i am not sure he could be anymore different than karzai. >> he was a personality. he was a different man. he had been the governor up until the taliban had taken over. he had been living in exile for a number of years. people say he was to go back and fight. if you really up to the task to do that. he had to prove himself, that was kind of the idea. he did, he went into the country and set up a base just inside of afghanistan. there were a armed group of guys with equipment.
basically they showed some capability for engaging the taliban. when that decision was made kind of late they go in and the next day i am called back and they're going to use a different team. that was talked about for some time. then it was like we'll have four days to do this. >> my next question was going to be about this team. not only do you have very little time to prepare for this but everything from your communications, weapons and everything is very much scrapped together what you can find. talk a little bit about the problems. not only is a different philosophically but that are going to be two different
people. but you probably think about him as humble and sure as i is bigger than life. how difficult was it to get that team put together? then to deal with that personality? >> one of the difference was language. his english is really better than mine. she as i spoke no english. we had to use a interpreter who was a great guy. if i wanted to talk to him i had to talk to the interpreter. you had that difference there. i can't speak to him in my own native language. that is a important factor that people forget about. his personality was more, he was a hands-on kind of guy. karzai was a intellectual.
which more sophisticated in the way he thought about things in the way he acted. as far as going together with the team. it was kind of difficult. what we ended up doing, we had no communication initially. how am i going to help anybody if i cannot talk to anybody? we manage it should together some communications equipment. what of the guys that was coming with me, he was coming out of the station. he had no weapons in the station and they have issued all of their handguns. they were climbing up on the rafters with a handgun. so he could not get a rifle
until we got into the country. so it was basic stuff. >> for mark, it may have been the weapon. >> he was not too thrilled about that. we got that worked out. then fortunately we found to task force who were there. we got them detailed which was a miracle frankly. they were detailed to our team. i say that because we actually had to get donald rumsfeld signature to have these guys come in with us to afghanistan. at least for part of the gear. >> and think that is very interesting because with the cia and special operations have been working a little bit together
before 9/11. 9/11 changed everything. with the demarcation between the military and special operations and cia. it is simply gone. at the beginning of those forces. how was the relationship between the cia and special operations? >> these are separate command and separate bureaucracy. >> with those initial months and weeks i would say it was almost seamless. i think the reason was because it was also motivated. went back here at home and about how everyone came together. more so with the military and afghanistan. we knew where everything was. there was really no friction on the ground. i was with a special forces team.
we never had any conflict at all. that was because we were so mission focus. we have a era military arm. that is made up entirely of guys from the military services many from different special operations. they are very familiar with the military. so our paramilitary teams were made up of officers. they are very like-minded with their military colleagues and who they are working with. i have the same everything. the differences they had a little bit of a different mission at that point. our mission was intelligence collection and providing supplies. we have other capabilities as well. in this case working with the special forces guys, their
mission was to support the afghans who were fighting on the ground. we all understood each other's role. that is critical. there was friction. they are not sand they are stepping on our toes. we knew what we were supposed to be doing. >> that moves smoothly. there is some friction between the people vince: while it was moving smoothly, there was friction between people on the ground and headquarters back at langley or the pentagon. several times you discuss the perception, the disconnect in understanding between the people back at headquarters and people in the field. you use the phrase "different worlds." you talk about close air support. there is a part of the book where you are called back to headquarters to do a report and a colleague had been calling in, and the person on the other end that you are talking to did not
understand what was happening. thought you had dropped coffee versus a bomb. and the horse feed story i want you to tell. and when somebody at -- died, they used the word "shocked" in response. then they realized, this is a battlefield, people will die. duane: i think that is a natural thing that happens between a field element and headquarters element. they are in two different worlds and sometimes they do not gel very well. for awhile the fear that i had, we had military guys with us, but i cannot send any texts. every report i had to dictate. i am in a tactical environment and i will dictate every report. normally we type it and shoot it to the satellite. so that was in the middle of the night, 2:00 in the morning, for
headquarters it is 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon roughly. so they are in different worlds, literally. and in that case we were calling, i was not but the leader was calling about the convoys coming in on us. one my do not know where it hit, but it was really loud. i jumped it was so loud. but the lady i was talking to on the other end, she says, "what was that? did you drop your coffee cup?" [laughter] duane: i did not even answer. i just continued on. then the horse feed, another example, a lot of the teams were operating in the north and the used horses. then the horse feed, another and i was mad i did not have a team of horses. i grew up with horses. so i was really upset about
that, but it would've been kind of been cool. anyway, what happened -- we would get supplies, they would be parachuted to us. we would have to go out and get what they had dropped us and send a report back. one day, this was at night when they drop them, we got our supplies and we unloaded them and they were two bags of horse feed. and you know, so we do a report, and i have to check anything before it goes out because it is going out my signature, so to speak. everything is good. it is a routine report. i do not probably put a lot of attention into what it said. after i sent the message to
headquarters, i am looking at the feed and the different messages and i was reading it and somebody, not me, one of my teammates, probably the paramilitary guy, just to make sure they understood we did not have horses, when we put two bags of feed -- horse feed, in parentheses they put, "we do not have any f--ing horses." except he did not put "f--ing." [laughter] duane: and we are not supposed to use curse words. and i'm looking at it with my signature. vince: there will be a historian and 80 years that will be looking at the document and it will give them a good chuckle. what is amazing to me is despite all of this, the bureaucrats, the fact it was thrown together at the last minute, you actually were the first group into kandahar, the ultimate target of several of these operations and foxtrot was the first team in.
and you hunkered down in the governor's palace and you were able to go back and lead the paramilitary aside and do some intelligence work. can you tell us about that? duane: i would like to say, yes, we were the first team in and very proud of it. echo team came in, the half of the team came in after that. we were ideally going to be hitting kandahar at the same time, but they had just a few days before been hit by a bomb and it killed some people, including two of the people they were with. the echo team working with us before was switched to foxtrot. wounded everybody else on the oda. and so they were delayed a bit. they came the next day. vince: i am giving you a chance to take a victory lap. duane: i know. [laughter] duane: it was not the cia guys, it was also the other guys
entering the same time. they were involved in that. anyway, you mentioned, you mentioned the compound. vince: you got a chance to do some hard-core intelligence. duane: headquarters had already prepared a list of places they want us to raid. that is where al qaeda had been headquartered, the main sanctuary for them. so we were hoping we were going to maybe capture some of them. we actually captured or killed some of the al qaeda on the way to kandahar in a village we held for 10 days, when we were trying to get into kandahar and we had to go past the airport because it was being held by the bad guys. when we were able to get by, we got to kandahar and started going after the targets that headquarters had said to raid. we were hoping to capture more
guys, figuring they had probably gone by now, or at least get intel. we did get some intel, no question the most important thing was a -- basically a casing report and attack plan to attack a u.s. naval ship in singapore by a cell in asia. so photos, diagrams, everything, it would be on the scale of like -- vince: the carl vincent is a massive nuclear power aircraft carrier. duane: right. vince: i'm saying it could have been catastrophic beyond the level of -- duane: so that report got out immediately of course. it took some weeks, but they rounded up everybody in
southeast asia and the whole cell was wrapped up. i feel like that above any single thing made it worthwhile for the entire team to send it in, because we do not know how many sailors could have been killed. there were other targets, international targets they were going to go after as well. vince: and people may know the name padilla as well. and you did not know at the time that what you got would actually lead to that. duane: al qaeda, believe it or not, they are very bureaucratic in their keeping notes and things, keeping track. they have an application form for those that want to become a member. and so they had, he had applied and we had boxes of stuff we had gotten at the governor's compound that had been held by the taliban and al qaeda before we moved in. there was stuff they had not gotten rid of. we found it. it was his application form and it had fingerprints on it and it
was used by mark who had done the sorting, and who testified in his trial, as the chain of custody of the information. vince: so if you are starting a terrorist organization, leave behind the bureaucracy, maybe have a streamlined approach to the application process. we talked about bureaucracy, but one time the cia and others actually get out of your way is the most important and that is when you now have two afghan leaders in the same city, brought in by two different teams, the sherzai team and karzai team, who are rivals in many ways. and instead of telling you what to do from langley, you actually were asked to mediate and you are given power to try to resolve the problem. >> exactly. there was always tension, because they are opposing, they are coming in with the same objective, kandahar. and for sherzai it was coming back to take the governorship
. that is what he was after. to take the governorship back. karzai, even then we were hoping he would come out on top of everything and to be the future leader of afghanistan. so there is -- and sherzai knows this as well, so there is some friction there on their different roles and all that. even though they actually have a very familiar relationship. i think they are second cousins, or maybe first cousins, they are related. so what happened is when we finally took kandahar, karzai kind of assumed primacy, before he became the leader of afghanistan he took charge in a sense and was willing to -- he wanted the former governor, the taliban governor of kandahar, he wanted him to become sort of a security chief of kandahar province to help breach and
bring in taliban elements to lay down their arms. he had a reason to do this. sherzai hated this guy. there was no way. also, we had intelligence that he was helping the al qaeda guys who were still in hiding get out of the country. so he was like, no way. not going to happen. so there was real friction. this was so important that they stay united because the taliban , is made up of these postunes, so we could not afford for them to be split. vince: like 40% of the population in afghanistan is as well, so that could break the entire country. duane: absolutely. so we had to kind of lay down the law so to speak, and greg, the echo team leader he was very close to karzai at that point,
especially after all they had been through, and myself with sherzai, and i brought mark along because he was from the station and he knew sherzai, so i want him to be there. we go to the meeting between the two to kind of sort things out. basically we were told, hey, you have to come to an agreement. this is for the good of the country. you have got to get this thing and to his credit, karzai resolved. and to his credit, karzai said -- resolved. and to his credit, karzai said let me do my own checking into this reporting about the guy helping, the guy he wanted to appoint as the chief of security helping al qaeda get out. he used his own sources and he was able to confirm what we were telling him. at that point he said, that is fine, we will not appoint him to security. at that sherzai was happy. point, and it was all resolved. vince: until 10 minutes later, when afghanistan -- before we go to the questions,
start thinking about that now, it has been 16 years and we are still there and it does not look like it is getting significantly better. based on your experiences, can we have peace in afghanistan without including the taliban, taliban oris big t ortle t taliban, whatever we want or how we want to define them? and is there a military solution we have not been able to find in the last 16 years? what is your prognosis moving forward? duane: i do not believe there is a military solution there. unless we want to just completely turn into a much larger than what we did before with 100,000 troops, and i do not think anybody is ready to do that or wants to do that, or should do that. so i do not think there is a military solution to the problems in afghanistan. i was very hopeful right after december 2001, we had pretty good success and the taliban was
out of office, they were on their heels, and i thought there would be a chance to get the country up and running and unified and have a stable country, but i am not nearly as hopeful any longer. you have to look at the history behind the country. this is nothing, what is going on now is nothing new, it has been going on a long time. like -- i think it is einstein who said, "i think doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. " i think there is a little bit of that going on in afghanistan. we were hopeful and had good intentions, but it is a tough country. it is a primitive country. geographically, an isolated country and ethnically divided. it has so many internal types of divisions. it manages, when it does not
have foreign forces in there, it seems to manage itself pretty --l, has not historically they have come together when there is a foreign invasion, like the russians, persians, mongols -- vince: or the british. duane: right. they have not yet as a nation done that to us, the united states yet and i think that is , partly because we have gone about it a little bit smarter, but i think the longer it goes the greater the risk of that happening. so i do not think there is a military solution. i say in my book at the end really, the only solution is a , negotiated peace, but unfortunately i do not think the taliban right now is in a position where they want to negotiate. but i do think we need to be thinking about leaving afghanistan. not hightailing out immediately, but we need to give up on the idea that we are going to build this nation into a stable country. vince: was it winnable in december 2001 or 2002? duane: i think where we got off track, i think our best hope of,
from the nationbuilding standpoint, political stability and all that, was really the first couple years. unfortunately i think the u.s. screwed up when we invaded iraq. at that point, and i can speak to this because i was at a job at headquarters then dealing with afghanistan, and all the focus of the government , basically really went to iraq. , and we went into a hole in afghanistan. in terms of resources and all that. we were still trying to do stuff, but if we had not invaded iraq and had been able to keep focus on afghanistan, especially after the initial success in 2001, that would've been the best opportunity to stabilize the place and be gone, or mostly gone. and unfortunately the opportunity has come and gone and i do not think we will get it back. vince: we will open it up to questions. if you will wait to ask your
question until either sean or amanda bring you a microphone. if you have a question please , raise your hand. right down here. sean is coming to you. audience member: can you talk a little bit about the federally administered travel areas and how it became an issue on how to get control over that area and how it became an escape , point for people to get into? duane: that area, people refer to it as the no man's land and the pakistani government has, it is an autonomous region and they have pretty much kept their forces out of that, but everything -- i'm not going to pretend i am a historian here, but what became a real issue with the taliban, al qaeda, some coming into the area and they could go to those travel areas, and go intoistan those travel areas, and they were pretty much not going to be attacked at that point, early on.
that changed. the pakistanis started doing some aggressive military operations into those travel areas. those are very remote areas. a lot of people think we should just erase the border and on either side call it -- land. for the groups that live there they do not even respect the , border. it is a very artificial thing. i really cannot speak to it. of the to say because it was a -- other than to say because it was a no man's land that the government of pakistan did not try to intervene militarily gote until things tha really bad, and they did intervene when foreign fighters were coming in, and this was going into pakistan. it was not just affecting afghanistan. but the whole pakistan issue is really one of the other major complications to the whole situation in afghanistan, because of the borders, because
of the packs strategic , -- what they perceive as their strategic interests in afghanistan. it really complicates coming up with a peaceful settlement in the region. vince: i think a lot of people focused on the story of the kurds and how they are in four different countries, and these groups are the same basic idea. historically with the breakup, you know, the british empire in south asia, there was an attempt to create a group that would be both in pakistan and afghanistan, because they see themselves as tribes, tribes before country. duane: absolutely. absolutely they do. vince: yes? she is coming right behind you. audience member: so it is my understanding that the president -- present administration somehow thinks that the interest of the pakistanis can be aligned with our interests. i am curious about your assessment of that.
do you think that is correct? could it actually occur? and what are the strategic interests of the pakistanis as it relates to afghanistan? duane: probably their biggest concern from a security standpoint is india. india is, in fact their number , one security concern. and afghanistan is seen as a buffer state, if you will, and they don't want indians to have a lot of influence in afghanistan, that is why president trump mentioned in his speech the other day, chastising the pakistanis, and then saying welcome to the idea of indians investing more in afghanistan. that should have got their attention. is their strategic interest minimizing the influence of india in the region and specifically in afghanistan. as far as aligning, there are places where our interests should align with pakistan. we want them to be a stable country.
and we do not want terrorists running around the country to get their hands on weapons. and i do not think that the pakistani government wants that either. so that is one area we can agree on. where it gets kind of dicey is -- just for historical reasons and the pakistani government 's involvement in afghanistan, which we were working with them on when the russians invaded, we were supplying them with arms and we were doing it basically through the pakistani government, through their intel sources. and they have a long connection to a lot of these taliban elements. the networks that they had worked with over the years. so there is an idea that there is residual feelings of support for people who support these groups still within the government. and the paks have tried to
minimize that. weed out people they think are actually supportive of them but , i do not know. i'm not involved with it anymore. but that has always been a concern, that the pakistanis through their service, , have been supporting some of these players in afghanistan that we are at war with. vince: all the way in the back. audience member: the taliban had a disproportionately negative impact on women. how do you think the role of women, did you see any of that? i know the u.s. government is spending a lot of money right now -- [indiscernible] duane: i can tell you i do not see a single woman my entire time in afghanistan. not one. they are just not allowed to be anywhere, especially where a foreigner could be. i will say that i do think there are some statistics, if you
will, research that shows that one good thing about our involvement in afghanistan, and other countries that have been involved, that more women and children, girls, are going to school then there were. so there has been progress. i think the problem will be in the future going forward is if the taliban either takes control, or if there is an agreement reached where they become part of the government and are willing to do that, that they will be fighting against that because of their traditional beliefs about the role of women, that kind of thing. so it will be a long, hard road i think on a lot of fronts, but certainly on the idea of equal rights for women education for , girls. but some progress has been made and i think that we should feel , proud about that having happened in afghanistan, so even if we left tomorrow it would not all be a loss. there has been progress.
their health is overall better. making more progress is going to be hard. vince: let's go to the back there also. audience member: let me thank you for a really interesting presentation. but i have a few questions. the first is regarding the role the russians in afghanistan. early on, you were helping with the planes coming in, etc., etc. is the ongoing? and the american president with russia, as relationships become more problematic, is this starting to create more problems with the united states in that case? maybe you can talk about that. and second question, the u.n. obviously, they have quite tense relationships with often the
taliban, but also tense relationships with the united states. how do you see that playing out going forward, and you believe ultimately to have solved the problem in afghanistan, that better relationships will ultimately be needed, or realized, or some common understandings come to with both russia and iran, and maybe talk about that. duane: frankly, i cannot really speak so much to the whole russian -- you are talking current involvement of russia and afghanistan and trying to gain influence. i really am not any good -- in a good position to comments one way or another on that. i think it is certainly -- they have half a historical -- have had a historical interest in
afghanistan. their invasion, we know, and then leaving there probably resulted in the demise of the soviet union. so they have a long-term connection to afghanistan and they may see this as, you know, there are some wealth in afghanistan in terms of natural resources. so they may want to gain influence there and try to have more influence in the region in general, going through afghanistan. what i really just but i really -- but i really cannot answer your question very well on the whole question of front. and as far as the u.n. and -- as iran and america, we often conflict with iran, we are not on the same sheet of music when we are trying to do things. you are actually right in that if we were in a situation like afghanistan, if we are there in a big way and the u.n. is there, it is all the better if we are really coordinating what we are doing and make sure we are not undermining each other.
but beyond that -- vince: what about iran? when you were there, where you cognizant of any of the larger regional tensions? between the sunni, shiite, and others? duane: well, iran was basically an enemy of the taliban. iran actually offered to help us after the 9/11 attacks because the taliban is not a shiite organization, they are sunni and , so there was a natural -- also, they are not persians, so there was a natural conflict between them and the iranians were willing to help us. things have changed now. part of that -- there are certainly a lot of news reports about iranians trying to get involved in afghanistan and giving support to one group or another. again, entries that back, -- i trace that back,
frankly to the invasion of iraq, , when we eliminated saddam hussein, that was the strategic counterbalance in the region. when he went away, we should not be surprised that the iranians are gaining a lot of influence now in the region. we took out one guy, one leader that kind of held them in place. so that has come back to haunt us in a lot of ways. vince: time for one last question. right here in front. audience member: you mentioned how you reached out and the importance of the pashtun elements. to what extent did you try to reach the other groups and what problems did you have with coordinating between the pashtuns and others? duane: we -- the only group we had that was not pashtun was a group of -- and i was so excited , about that.
they speak. and i speak farsi, which is -- similarly the same language, and i was looking forward to speaking with them, but they have such a thick accent that they would be laughing at me. but that was the only other group. in the north, that was, the northern area was made up of uzbeks. and i'm not sure -- there were some pashtuns with the northern alliance. so we had a relationship with all of those. the agency did, anyway. through those teams operating with the northern alliance. basically up north, the way it works is teams would work with one of the major commanders from the northern alliance and they were doing the same with those guys up in the northern alliance. they actually had an army up there, tanks, helicopters and all that. we were doing the same thing in the south, although we did not have an army to work with, guerrilla groups is what we were doing. so we had relationships with them and they knew -- we tried
to pass information back and forth so the northern alliance guys knew what was going on in the south, we knew what was going on in the north that kind , of thing, but we were not directly dealing with them, or any of the other ethnic groups. vince: please join me in thanking duane evans for taking the time to talk with us today. [applause] vince: his book is "foxtrot in kandahar." will you stick around a little while and sign some books? duane: absolutely. vince: i ask that you will not a cost him immediately. give him time to make his way out the back, where he can set up at a table there. duane: thank you. thank you. [chatter] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: you are watching